The new Weston Studio at the Bristol Old Vic takes itself very seriously; all grey décor, raw brick walls and oddly low bench seating (I’m talking nearly on the floor – make sure you avoid skirts if you opt for the front row). Two women in cowgirl garb, sitting on hay bales playing country music are, therefore, in stark contrast with the surroundings. By the time 2017 Funny Women Awards finalist Amy Mason comes barefoot on stage, we are curious enough to travel with her wherever she may ask us to go. This is just as well, as within moments we are facing a monster of mismatched taxidermy, the Jackalope (a mythical creature of Texan folklore), and beginning to feel the sense of unease that Amy’s poetic delivery keeps up throughout.
I find it fitting to review this play for Funny Women as first and foremost Amy Mason is a very funny woman, something that is not lost in the challenging themes of the evening. This dark, biting humour gives relief but more importantly encourages the audience to settle inside Amy’s brain. We see Texas through her eyes and experience the anger and claustrophobia that is at the heart of this work without wanting to back away from it. We lean in, sharing her horror at the museum attached to a prison and the complex mix of emotions that come from her newly discovered pregnancy. We are led, willingly, away from the anti-choice billboards of the Texan freeways, out of smoky motel rooms and into the woods. Slowly we are taken away from what we know and ever closer to Hollering Woman Creek.
Amy’s steady storytelling cadence lets her stay in control of the narrative while simultaneously creating a volatile vulnerability on stage. You may doubt her ability to tell fact from fiction but never her knack to spin a tale. The music is beautifully performed (by Megan Henwood and Elizabeth Westcott) and ties the themes of pregnancy, death and identity together. The vocals are also an impressive method of lending insight into Amy’s increasingly embattled inner dialogue. Amy manages to capture a sense of powerlessness that is rarely so well articulated and immediately recognisable. Even as Amy’s fact-finding mission becomes increasingly dislocated from reality it remains firmly relatable, compelling and authentic.
Witty, poignant and just bloody well done. This show will stay with you after the lights go up and the music stops, so I urge you to catch this as soon as you can. Even if you have to sit on the floor.
Keep up to date with Amy Mason’s work here!